October is National Disability Employment Awareness month, and students from the Maryland School for the Blind visited NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., for a hands-on and audible learning experience about what happens at NASA and career opportunities available to them.
On Oct. 25, 16 students in grades 9 through 12 came to NASA Goddard to learn about things ranging from space blankets to ice cores. NASA Goddard studies astrophysics, planetary science, Earth science, heliophysics and develops technology to do study them. The main purpose of the visit was to inform the students about science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, careers opportunities available at NASA for blind and visually impaired individuals.
The agenda included a tour of the Spacecraft Fabrication Facility, including Machining Technology, Composites, Rapid Prototyping, and the Model Shop. At Goddard's Spacecraft Fabrication Facility, technicians and engineers manufacture components used for spacecraft assembly as well as astronaut tools.
The students also got to tour the space blanket laboratory on the Goddard campus and felt the texture of space blankets used to cover satellites and protect them from the harsh temperatures of space. The blankets are unique. For example, to provide adequate insulation for NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, the blanketing material used on the telescope was made up of 16 layers of dimpled aluminum with an outer Teflon skin. The multi-layer insulation or "blanket" protects satellite instruments from the severe and rapid temperature changes they experience as they move in orbit from very hot sun to very cold night, even though the blanket is incredibly thin, measuring less than one-tenth of an inch thick when laid flat.
Education Specialist Katherine Bender later gave a hands-on presentation entitled, "What Iice cores can tell us about the past, present, and future: A Cool, Hands-on Demo!" Bender also spoke about high school internship opportunities at Goddard.
The event was coordinated through Kenneth A. Silberman and Katherine Bender of NASA Goddard's Education Office. They worked with Colleen Shovestull, a special educator and science teacher at the Maryland School for the Blind to make the visit happen. The partnership is being formed by the NASA Goddard Education Office, the Equal Opportunity Programs Office (EEOPO), and the Equal Accessibility Advisory Committee (EAAC). The visit stems from a partnership that the Individuals with Disabilities Advisory Group is establishing with the Maryland School for the Blind.